How to land a STEM career in the space industry

Space careers
Watch this space! STEM careers in Australia are seriously taking off. Image: Shutterstock

A STEM career in the space industry could take you places you have never dreamed. 

If you can see yourself writing code for satellites, helping to safely launch rockets or interrogating images of the Earth – Australia and New Zealand are the places to be.

The space industry already supports 10,000 Australian and 12,000 New Zealand jobs, with both countries committed to massively growing these numbers. How? Australian and New Zealand governments recently created dedicated space agencies. But unlike NASA, they aren’t trying to send satellites and spaceships into space themselves, they’re supporting others to get there.

The Australian Space Agency is helping fund the University of Melbourne’s ‘SpIRIT’ mission, to launch a small satellite in 2022 hosting an advanced X-ray imaging instrument. They are also assisting Human Aerospace, a startup that is building a spacesuit designed to ease the side effects of low gravity during long space missions.

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Exploring opportunities

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Space Agency has worked closely with Rocket Lab to establish the world’s first private orbital launch range located on the Mahia Peninsula. Now, over 1700 New Zealand companies assist Rocket Lab in making its frequent commercial satellite launches happen.

“It’s an exciting time for the space sector,” says Australian Space Agency Deputy Head, Anthony Murfett, “The technology is smaller, cheaper and the cost to get to space has come down.” What this means for you is that there is a huge range of different space industry opportunities to explore.

For example, you could become a software engineer and custom design the code needed to launch rockets into space or make satellites function. Or, build software to analyse real-time data from launch vehicles and gather info to help develop the next generation of rockets.

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Alternatively, a data analyst role in Earth observation means collecting information about places or objects on the Earth’s surface from space, which could be for you.

Jobs that are outta this world

“We’re seeing the field of data analytics explode,” says Anthony. Your satellite data insights could be used to improve the environment, agriculture, archaeology, urban planning, water management, meteorology and so many other areas.

And this is before we look at the countless tech roles required to build the spacecraft and equipment needed to even get to space. “With the increasing impact of space technologies, new business and jobs related to space are going to continue to grow,” Anthony says.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.

Ben Skuse

Author: Ben Skuse

Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.

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